1. ‘Francesco’ Review: The Pope, Up Close, but Not That Close, The new documentary on Pope Francis is a missed opportunity to demystify elements of the papacy., By Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times, March 25, 2021, 7:00 AM, Opinion
Discovery+ is billing “Francesco,” a portrait of Pope Francis, as “an unprecedented look at the man behind the cloth.” But while the filmmakers were able to talk to Pope Francis in person, a large portion of the documentary comes from a layer out. The director, Evgeny Afineevsky, includes ample footage of the pope’s public appearances, images of his tweets and interviews with multiple people identified as “longtime friend of Pope Francis.”
This approach, focusing on the message and not the messenger, seems consistent with Francis’s modesty, and the film plays like a channel for spreading his ideas on the environment, refugees and religious coexistence. All of that is to the good. But judged strictly as a movie, “Francesco” comes across as shapeless and secondhand — a missed opportunity to present a closer look at the daily work of being pope and perhaps to demystify elements of the papacy.
2. Under Biden, the plight of persecuted Christians may worsen, By Hedieh Mirahmadi, Christian Post, March 25, 2021, Opinion
President Biden’s recently confirmed UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is unlikely to use her diplomatic muscle to defend Christians against persecution.
If recent remarks by Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield are any indication of her position, the prospects are grim. At the U.N. General Assembly’s commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, she reprimanded China and Myanmar for committing genocide against their Muslim minorities and then turned to the issue of racism in the US. … The persecution of Christians in the Middle East and their mass slaughter in countries across Africa were noticeably absent from her remarks.

Without the U.S. leading the diplomatic efforts to defend minority Christian communities, the lives of these people are in grave danger. More than 340 million Christians face high levels of persecution and discrimination, while the number of Christians killed for their faith increased by over 60 percent since last year. Moreover, if Thomas-Greenfield’s first official speech is a bellwether of things to come, Christian persecution may reach our own shores.
Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel. 
3. Pope, citing pandemic effect, cuts pay for cardinals, others, By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, March 24, 2021, 1:37 PM
Trying to save jobs as the pandemic pummels Vatican revenues, Pope Francis has ordered pay cuts for cardinals and other clerics, as well as nuns, who work at the Holy See.
In a decree published online Wednesday by the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Francis said that starting in April cardinals’ salaries will be reduced 10%. Superiors of the Holy See’s various departments, who, with few exceptions, are clerics, will be hit by 8% cuts while lower-ranking priests and nuns will see 3% vanish from their paychecks.

The belt-tightening “has the aim of saving current job positions,’’ Francis wrote.
Lower-ranking lay-workers at the Vatican aren’t affected by the salary reductions, but their pay raises, due every two years, are being temporarily frozen under the austerity measures. The lowest-paid lay workers will still get raise, though.
4. Virginia governor signs death penalty repeal, By Catholic News Agency, March 24, 2021, 3:00 PM
Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) signed a bill Wednesday ending the death penalty in Virginia, making the commonwealth the 23rd state to abolish the practice.
“Signing this new law is the right thing to do,” Northam said at a signing ceremony at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, the former site of executions in the state. “It is the moral thing to do to end the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
5. Slovenian authorities charge Vatican ‘security consultant’ with money laundering, By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, March 24, 2021, 1:00 PM
Slovenian authorities have reportedly filed preliminary charges against an Italian woman on suspicion of laundering funds illegally obtained from the Vatican through Slovenian-registered companies.
According to Slovenian daily Večer, criminal investigators in the capital city of Ljubljana have filed the preliminary charges against Marogna and a Slovenian citizen they think may have been working with her.
Marogna is expected to face a Vatican trial for alleged embezzlement after she was accused of misappropriating Vatican funds from payments of more than 500,000 euros (around $600,000) she received from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State through her Slovenia-registered company in 2018 and 2019.

Media have claimed that the payments were made under the direction of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former sostituto of the Secretariat of State and a fellow Sardinian. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
6. Flannery O’Connor and the relief of discovering our inner ‘Misfit’, By Grazie Pozo Christie, Angelus, March 24, 2021, Opinion
In [O’Connor’s] short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” one of her characters, the Misfit, a murderer on a random killing spree, expresses the vast implications of our redemption. 
“If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can — by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.”
This is the conclusion that all of O’Connor’s works point toward. All of us — man, woman, child — have but one way out of our natural condition of “no pleasure but meanness”: coming face-to-face with our sinfulness, discovering we cannot conquer it on our own, and throwing away everything to follow the One who can and for some inexplicable reason does. 
For O’Connor’s characters, that first step is the hardest one.

This brings me to another purpose of O’Connor’s —  the one which I found particularly fitting in this time of Lent: to show us that we are just like them! We do not begin to see the wounds we inflict on others, or the edifices and habits we build to daily soothe our complacent consciences. Can we really claim to be superior to her characters, who were largely supine in the face of the grave societal injustices of the Jim Crow era?
We have our own modern day systemic cruelty that we’ve become accustomed to, but it does not seem to stop us in our tracks. The sexual liberation that our culture prizes above all goods is built on the backs of abased women and the deaths of untold numbers of unborn children.
We live in a society that values personal satisfaction and comfort, usually at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable. Do we stand and protest against today’s grave sin and refuse to be a part of it?

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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